Pecan Squares that’ll make you say “How easy is that?”

by Kate on June 6, 2012

Pecan Pie Squares

Families can be divided for a lot of reasons – money; family secrets; sibling rivalries.  Or, in my family’s case, food network star Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa.

“I am fabulous – and so is my cooking!”

For years, my mom, aunts and grandmother have been Ina’s number one fans:  they’ve bought every new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, my mom DVR’s almost every episode, and even keeps her flour and sugar in the same glass jars and salt and pepper in the same white ramekins that Ina Does.  At every family holiday, you can pretty much bank on the fact that when you bite into one of the twenty five desserts on the table, when you ask for the recipe, you’ll hear “They’re Ina’s”, as if she’s a second cousin whose sitting in the next room or something.


And then, there’s my cousin Erin: she loathes Ina.  The sheer thought of her standing in her beautiful hampton’s kitchen, with a denim or black blouse on, collar popped, cooking up something for Jeffrey before he gets home from work releases the steam from Erin’s ears.  Perhaps it’s because she herself has a small bakery operation of her own in L.A., and Ina’s seemingly perfect desserts don’t live up to a Bella Boo Brownie or Max’s Monster Oatmeal Cookies.  Or maybe it’s Ina’s exessive use of the word ‘Fabulous’ or the term ‘How easy is that?’ 

America’s Next Top Model Cupcakes from Bella Boos Bakery – take that Ina

And then there’s those of us that are torn, like myself and some of my cousins.  Because yes, Ina, like all Food Network stars, can make you crazy.  We’re jealous of her kitchen, and her hampton’s house, and the fact that she gets to sit home and cook delicous food all day and get paid for it! WTF!  But, I do think her recipes are delcious – they’re basic enough that 9 times out of 10 you’ll have most of the ingredients on hand, and can manage to put them together without burning the house down –  and the woman loves her cocktails.  I’ll drink to that!

One of Ina’s recipes that has become a Murphy Family Favorite is her Pecan Squares.  There are 9 sticks of butter.  NINE.  N-I-N-E.  Oh and, as if the squares themselves aren’t enough, she takes it up a notch and dips half of them in chocolate (see I knew there was a reason I liked this woman).  This recipe goes on forever – you’ll have pecan squares for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a year, because one square inch of them is probably equal to your daily caloric intake.  They are just sinful.  But, the recipe is pretty involved – it feels like it takes forever to make them (I mean do you know how long it takes to unwrap nine sticks of butter? I’m sweating just thinking of it!)

So I was browsing online and found this delicous looking alternative for Ina’s 9-sticks-of-butter-bars (that’s what I’m renaming them) from Just a Taste, and it looked easy and equally as delicious!

Easier than Ina's Pecan Bars
Rich and decadent pecan pie bars that taste just like Ina Garten's, without all the time, and the butter!
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FOR CRUST
  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  3. 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
FOR TOPPING
  1. 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  2. 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  3. 1/3 cup honey
  4. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  5. 2 cups chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides. (I sprayed my foil with non-stick cooking spray, just in case)
  2. First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
  3. Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
  4. While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.
  6. Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.
  8. Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars.
  9. *An optional, highly recommended last step, stolen from Ina – DIP THE ENDS IN CHOCOLATE! Milk or Dark – you won’t be sorry! I didn’t do it this time, but, it will only make them that much more amazing.
And They Cooked Happily Ever After http://www.andtheycookedhappilyeverafter.com/

Well what’s the verdict? Could these put Ina out of business?  I think so! They were absolutely delicious.  Not quite as thick and hearty as hers, but that means you get to eat more of them! The same great flavor, without all the hassle, time, and  BUTTER. 

So Ina, how much easier was that?

BHW June 7, 2012 at 7:59 am

Like you, I am torn. My husband gets a chuckle when Jeffrey comes bumbling into the kitchen and asks Ina stupid questions. Anyhoo, I’ve been wanting to make her pecan bars but the nine sticks of butter put me off. I’ll make your version and get back with ya!

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter June 7, 2012 at 9:34 am

You will absolutely LOVE them! After having both versions, you would honestly never know the difference – and like I said, I highly recommend the chocolate dipping – you only live once right? enjoy!

atasteofmadess June 7, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I love the last step. Dip in chocolate!? Sounds like pure heaven!

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter June 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I made it sound like it’s optional, but it’s ACTUALLY mandatory :)

Claire June 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Literally laughed out loud at this post. Such a great read

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter June 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Thanks Claire!(love your pup!)

Shelley October 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm

OMG, this is now a favorite of my family and friends. Everyone who has had them just goes crazy over them. Thank you so much for sharing this one. I’m adding them into my box of homebaked yummy’s that I give to friends and co workers at Christmas.

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter October 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Aren’t they the best Shelley? I don’t even consider myself a pecan pie fan but these are beyond amazing! I hope they continue to be a favorite dessert of yours for many months and holidays to come!

Shannon October 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm

These….are…..AMAZING!!!! Absolutely amazing!!! It is now our family’s FAVORITE dessert!!!!

cynthia November 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I have made these twice now..and they are quite delicious. There is a problem….the first time I made these..I followed the directions and cooking time and the outer edges of the bars were too hard after cooking. The last time I made them, I cut the cooking time almost in half..and the SAME thing happened. We all end up fighting for the middle bars because those are always PERFECT but the ones with an outer edge are a completely different story…any way to stop this from happening?

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter November 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Hi Cynthia! That’s a really great question actually, as I admit the edges of mine get a little hard too! (Usually doesn’t stop me from eating them haha) I suppose it could be several things – but my suspicion is it could have something to do with the aluminum foil in that the edges are touching the foil which could be causing them to heat up a little faster than the rest of he batter. I would try maybe using parchment paper instead of foil or even just putting the crust/pecan mixture directly in the baking dish (greasing it first) and see if that doesn’t do the trick! I may even try that myself as I’m sure ill be makin loads of these in the next month or so! I hope this helps though – would love to hear back if you try it and have success!

Connie November 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Can you make the crust with just a mixer and not use the paddle attachment?

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter November 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Absolutely Connie! You could use a rubber spatula to cream the sugar and butter together, and then as you add the flour, you could even get right in there with your hands to mix the crust. Sometimes that’s the best way to get everything to combine evenly!

tina@tinavan.com November 19, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hi! I just made these and they turned out fantastic! My edges were a bit hard, I just cut about a 1/4 inch around the entire pan so they are all nice and soft now. My kids can eat the scraps! LOL! I was wondering if you can freeze these? and how long do they stay fresh in the fridge?
Thanks for the great recipe!

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter November 20, 2012 at 9:02 am

I agree! The scraps are equally as delicious! I think that these would be fine in the fridge for up to a week – I personally don’t like to leave baked goods much longer than that, but I think a week would be fine. These also freeze really nicely too :)
Enjoy your Thanksgiving – and pecan bars!

Kim November 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm

How important is it to use unsalted butter? I always use salted butter

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter November 21, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Hi Kim! Ahh the salted vs. unsalted butter debate. From what I’ve read, the unsalted butter allows you to control the saltiness of the recipe, and being that these pecan squares do call for 1/2 tsp. salt as is, I would maybe recommend using the unsalted. However, also based on what I’ve read, the difference in the amt. of salt in the 2 versions is very slight, so I highly doubt if you used salted butter it would ruin the pecan squares – I usually just air on the side of caution w/ things like salt that have intense flavor.

I hope that helped!

Kim November 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Thank you. I wonder if I omit the salt (since it is a small amount, and use salted butter if that would be good. I have heard that people do that sometimes in other recipes

Thelma Lane December 8, 2012 at 7:57 am

I to L@VE these bars, but also found them hard around the edges. Do you bring the filling to a boil? I know I over cooked the first batch, but tired to watch the time on the second with still hard edges. Have you tried without paper liner? G@@D any way. Wonderful flavor. Thanks

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter December 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm

That’s a great queastion Thelma! One I’ve definitely gotten before. I am suspect that it could indeed be the foil that makes the edges heat up and cook a little faster than the rest – may actually try them without the foil next time myself! If you try that and have success let me know!

Thelma Lane December 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I will tomorrow is the day & will keep you posted…….;)

Lois December 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm

If you put a narrow piece of foil on top of the pan, about an inch or so wide, it protects the edges from becoming quite as hard. Kind of like protecting a pie crust from getting too browned too early.

andtheycookedhappilyeverafter December 15, 2012 at 10:43 am

That is an excellent tip Lois! Definitely goin to try it next weekend for my double batch of these 😉 thanks so much!

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Judy B March 2, 2013 at 3:07 am

I made Inas pecan squares and the cost was $33.00+. There was way too much of the pecan filling, They were a rich, delicious, expensive pain in the kiester. . . and what I feel is WAY too much unnecessary butter. However, I now know exactly what to do to make it better….and that will be to use the same recipe you use. ***Hint: It will make it even more like Ina’s, by wearing a Black, white or denim shirt while saying …IT’S AMAZING..WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE…HOW EASY IS THAT then give off a nervous giggle as I serve it !
I hope you will get around to posting what you did to solve the problem of the edges getting to hard. ( please do it soon ) I am sincere in saying I will be making these..I can tell it’s a great recipe. Thanks…

Nancy October 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I think I inadvertently figured out to solve the too-hard-edge issue. I didn’t put them back in the oven after I put the filling on top of the crust! Oops – and yet so delicious!

Kate October 22, 2013 at 12:16 am

What a smart idea nancy! It’s true that the mixture probably hardens on its own – brilliant tip :)

Judy October 14, 2013 at 4:35 am

I have been making these for many years and have been ask for the recipe a zillion times. I put them directly in the pan with no foil. They don’t stick and I just cut them into bars. They keep in a covered dish for at least a week if not more. Of all my cookies I have made this is the one people rave about the most. Happy baking,

Kate October 22, 2013 at 12:15 am

Definitely going to try w/out the foil Judy – thanks for the tip!

Rachel October 21, 2013 at 7:52 pm

These are great! I did make one adjustment. I swapped the honey for the same measurement of good maple syrup. Hello maple pecan bars! Sooooo good, and really easy! Thanks.

Kate October 22, 2013 at 12:15 am

brilliant Rachel! These are probs one of my top 3 favorite desserts, but I’ll definitely try them w/ maple syrup now! Glad you loved them!

Cooking on Broadway October 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I made these and shared them on Dinner Happy. They were a hit! And so easy to make!

Kate October 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

So glad to hear! Perfect for this time of year too!

Audrey October 30, 2013 at 12:24 am

Pecan Squares

Kyna November 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I’m curious if dark karo syrup can be used instead of honey? I always use karo in my regular pecan pie & would like to keep the same taste in the bars. Will definitely be trying these for Thanksgiving! :)

Kate November 10, 2013 at 4:21 am

I bet it would Kyna – these are essentially pecan pie bars so if that’s what you typically use, than keep it the same! I hope they’re a hit!

Val November 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I’m making these for thanksgiving. Special request from my mother in law :). Has anyone used dark brown sugar instead of light brown? I use dark brown when I make pecan pie but not sure with this recipe and the crust. Thanks!!

Kate December 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Clearly late on this Val but definitely do Dark Brown! Its just a richer flavor. I hope they were a hit!

val November 27, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I can’t wait to make this for Thanksgiving! I usually use dark brown sugar in my pecan pie. Has anyone used dark brown sugar to make the crust? not sure if it would mess up the consistency. Thanks!

Kate December 8, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Thats a great question! I’d be curious to see if you tried it and how it came out!

Liz December 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

This is the second year in a row I’ve tried to make these for a party. The edges are so hard I can’t slice through them, wasting at least one-forth of the bars. I am actually throwing today’s batch away. It is so hard and so sticky I’m afraid it will pull someone’s tooth out at the party. Great tasting recipe… Before it cooks. There are so many reviews that say the same thing as mine that I should’ve read more before attempting again.

Kate December 19, 2013 at 1:04 am

I’m sorry about that Liz! It’s true that the edges get pretty tough. I have tried baking them for a little less time. There was also a great idea by another reader to simply not bake them after pouring the pecan topping on and just letting it sit. I think that would help as well. I hope what was leftover was delicious enough to make up for the fallen pecan square soldiers!

Jackie December 19, 2013 at 6:13 am

I was browsing Pinterest for something different and came across this…Making chocolate bark and assorted desserty things to take to a party…Am going to try this, but as I’m making the bark and throwing on peppermints etc I got to thinking! Those hard edges?? Yum sprinkled on to bark…Screw the candy canes! haha

Kate December 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Genius idea Jackie! I usually just eat them myself :)

Lynne December 20, 2013 at 12:04 am

Made these today. The taste is amazing, best I have ever eaten. I used a 7 by 11 inch pan lined with parchment. I baked for 10 minutes rather than 20. They are not dry at the edges. They are thicker than made with a 9 by 13 inch pan. They are uniformally the same thickness throughout and no waste with cutting off the edges . Every piece is slightly soft. Just delicious.

Kate December 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Great tip Lynne! Making them as we speak and am going to try this technique!

Lynne December 23, 2013 at 12:35 am

Made these today.the taste is amazing, best I have ever eaten. I used a 11 by 7 inch pan lined with parchment. I baked or 10 minutes rather than 20. They were not dry at the edges. They were thicker than those made in a 13 by 9 inch pan and were uniformally the same thickness throughout. There was no waste cutting off the edges. Every piece was soft and delicious.

Pammy B. January 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm

I tried this recipe and there is some reasoning to the madness, to bake or not to bake? My solution is both. The last baking phase is too long… Instead bake just 5 min. Then cut into squares BEFORE YOU COOL. Covering the corners with chocolate is too sickening sweet… Leave it as is. I have a question though… Do you post a printing version for your recipes?

Kate January 11, 2014 at 1:43 am

I love everyones take on these Pam! And I actually agree – I made these for xmas and only baked for about 10 minutes with the pecan topping and they came out really well! Although, I gotta back my chocolate dipped corners up. However, I would dip everything in chocolate if I could. But, differences in baking opinions are what make the world go around! As far as the printed versions of my recipes go, unfortunately the Pecan Squares were ‘pre blog upgrade’ and since they had what I believed to be a lot of useful photos in the recipe, I didnt want to change it over, even though it is such a popular recipe. But everything from about March 2013 on is in a handy dandy printable version!

Gisella October 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Please keep in mind that Ina’s recipe is for a half-sheet pan (18×12) of pecan squares, which is about twice the size of your pan. Therefore, the ingredients would be twice as much. However, doubling your recipe still would only require 6 sticks of butter instead of Ina’s 9 sticks. I will give it a try and let you know. Also, how many servings do you get from your recipe? Ina’s was only 20 bars. Ina must be providing some huge bars.

Kate October 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Agreed Gisella! It’s not as large a pan – but I found Ina’s bars to a) be a LOT thicker than these and b) make a ton (more than 20 – I think I cut almost 2 dozen, and they were still a sizeable bar in my opinion). Because these are so rich, I usually only cut them into small bars (about 24) but you can cut them larger than that if you want. They’re just so decadent! They’re also not quite as thick as Ina’s, especially the crust. But, you still get the same great flavors as Ina’s without all the butter! Hope you like them!

Randie Kirkley January 18, 2015 at 1:50 am

These are delicious! My best friends demands I make her some for her birthday and at Christmas.

Kate March 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Thank goodness they’re only for special occasions Randie or we’d be in trouble!

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